LA Weekly Review of West of Lincoln Project

An Artist Remembers Venice in the ’70s, When Growing Up Was an Act of Survival

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of "West of Lincoln"

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of “West of Lincoln”
Jennifer Swann

Eddie Hadvina points to the painting of himself as an 11-year-old Boy Scout. In it, he’s wearing an olive green cap and a red kerchief with his khaki uniform, a skateboard in one hand and a trophy in the other. On his left shoulder is a patch representing Venice’s Troop 34, which he joined at his mother’s insistence.

“That’s where all the trouble started,” says Hadvina, now 56 and sporting a gray goatee. “That’s where I met all my Venice Hoodlum friends,” he says, referring to a street gang that was active in the neighborhood in the 1970s.

Hadvina’s parents, both Hungarian immigrants, visited Venice on their honeymoon in 1960 — Hadvina says he was conceived during that trip — and decided to move there two years later. Hadvina discovered skateboarding when the sport was still brand-new and being pioneered in the neighborhood by people like Stacy Peralta, one of his peers. But Hadvina’s substance abuse problems weakened his chances of becoming a professional skateboarder.

“When I was a teenager I was really good at skateboarding and surfing,” he says. “But every time I showed up to skateboard, I’d never make it in [to the skate park] because they’d all be partying and I love partying.”

Hadvina, who on a recent Saturday wore a baseball cap and a T-shirt printed with images of the Venice Skate Park, is one of the subjects featured in artist Ruth Chase’s exhibition “West of Lincoln.” The show of a dozen paintings and accompanying audio portraits, which opened earlier this month and runs through Sept. 10 at the nonprofit Venice Arts gallery, seeks to tell the stories of people who grew up west of Lincoln Boulevard in the 1970s, when the neighborhood was better known for poverty, gang violence and a burgeoning youth skating culture than for billion-dollar tech companies, designer boutiques and trendy restaurants.

Like Hadvina, many others featured in Chase’s project experienced violence and addiction to drugs and alcohol from a young age. Some spent years trying to recover from habits they picked up on the streets of Venice. Nearly all recall a tough, eclectic neighborhood that felt nothing like the wealthy, sterilized enclave it is today.

“Most people either dealt with drive-by shootings — I got jumped — or knew somebody that died because of a gunshot or a knife, a stabbing,” says Chase, who grew up in the neighborhood in the ’70s and describes the culture as one of survival. “We always used to say, you go east of Lincoln to see green lawns and two parents.”

“You had to have a little bit of an edge or you’d get picked on,” says David Fowler, one of the people Chase featured in the show. “You had to hold your own, and people had to know that you were tough enough not to mess with.”

At the same time, Venice Beach was attracting free-spirited 20- and 30-somethings who moved there from across the country to live the so-called hippie lifestyle and find work on the boardwalk, with its tourist-friendly arcade games and cafes. “They experience Venice entirely different than a local does,” Chase says. “It was a weird contrast.”

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina
Jennifer Swann

The first time Chase noticed Abbot Kinney becoming a destination was when Hal’s Bar and Grillopened on the block — then known simply as Washington Boulevard — when she was still a teenager. “We were on welfare. My mom, she didn’t read or write, she didn’t drive a car, and Hal’s moved in and it was like, ‘Wow, this is a cool fancy new place,’” Chase says. “I remember taking my mom there and realizing she couldn’t afford to eat there.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise, one of the subjects featured in the show, says it’s no wonder the area gentrified so quickly: It’s home to beachfront property. And yet, for years, she says, “West of Lincoln was a ghost town. That’s where the Latinos and the blacks and the surfers lived.”

Venice began to shed its ghost-town reputation in the 1990s, when developers swooped in aggressively. “Venice was the type of town where you passed your property down to your family,” Wise says. “When these developers came in, they put very large price tags on these homes. When someone offers you a million dollars for your home, you’re probably going to sell it.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.
Jennifer Swann

Wise says her family never owned property, and she still marvels at the fact that her single mother was able to raise three kids in a three-bedroom apartment near the beach for about $300 a month. “It’s unheard of now,” she says.

Chase, who now lives in Northern California, came up with the idea for the “West of Lincoln” project during a visit to Abbot Kinney in 2014 — just a year before Hal’s was priced out of the block and was forced to relocate to Playa Vista. Chase found herself standing in the middle of the street, disoriented by what she was seeing: high-end shops and restaurants in every direction. When she returned home, she wanted to find other people who could relate to the quaint, scary, weird Venice of her childhood. She thought maybe they all shared similar experiences growing up, and she wondered how those experiences might have affected them as adults. She posted ads on Facebook and Craigslist seeking people willing to be interviewed and then painted. Getting them to trust her wasn’t easy.

“What I’d hear was, ‘Well, who the fuck are you?’” Chase says, imitating her critics. “‘What do you want? You’re just part of that motherfucking gentrification and you’re just gonna tell our stories and make money off it.’”

But word-of-mouth spread and Chase eventually found a group that agreed to participate, but only after she proved that she was one of them: a Venice native with no monetary incentive. It helped that she also guaranteed her subjects full creative input over the final result. Chase conducted interviews and then hired a writer, Gena Lasko — thanks to a grant from the Carl Jacobs Foundation — to condense them into short biographies.

Chase’s paintings are not intended as acts of realism but representations of each person’s upbringing and most transformational experiences. Hadvina, for example, is portrayed as a Boy Scout, but behind him is an adult silhouette referencing his present. The silhouette is painted to look like water, a nod to the empty swimming pools he got in trouble for skating in as a kid.

Chase’s painting of Fowler, a skateboarder who also struggled with drugs and alcohol, depicts him flying through the air on his board. On the bottom of his deck are the faces of his wife, children and parents. The visual is a metaphor for his support of his family through various health crises, including both his wife’s and his mother’s ovarian cancer diagnoses several years ago. Now a real estate agent in Venice, Fowler says he’s lucky to raise his kids in the same neighborhood where he and his wife both grew up, especially now that he can teach them not to repeat the same mistakes he made.

“Our kids go to the same elementary school we went to 40 years ago. It’s so amazing,” he says, “to be an example to them so they don’t have to suffer the way we did.”

After all these years, Hadvina and Fowler haven’t given up on their skater roots. They both ride for Santa Monica Airlines Skateboards and Hadvina still competes in competitions aimed at older skaters. Sober for more than two decades, it’s as if they’re getting to redo the childhoods they never had.

“We’re still doing airs out of pools,” Hadvina says. “We’re skating like kids.”

The closing reception for “West of Lincoln” is Sun., Sept. 10, 10 a.m.-noon, at Venice Arts, 13445 Beach Ave., Marina del Rey; (310) 392-0846, venicearts.org.

BELONGING Exhibition

R U T H C H A S E
B E L O N G I N G
Community Exhibition | Film Screening

May 2 – July 30

On May 2, Nevada County Arts Council will present the work of Ruth Chase in an artist-led community exhibition. This exhibition is the culmination of a year’s work—traveling, interviewing, painting, organizing, documenting. Alongside Ruth’s large-scale acrylic paintings will be a meaningful collaboration of work from the community: paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, poetry, photography and video. A short film by Ruth Chase and Radu Sava will emerge as the centerpiece of this year-long inquiry of what it means to belong to the land in Nevada County. The exhibition runs through July 30th.

BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home. Ruth worked with the people who tend it, love it and depend on it, mobilizing perspectives to create a deeper sense of connection between the members of our community and the land we all share. Belonging is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council led by Artist Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

Through social media, Ruth posted a weekly Saturday morning question that engaged the community in finding a sense of belonging here in Nevada County. The interactions and responses of this group informed the project’s outcome. In addition, ten featured participants were interviewed by Ruth about their direct relationship with the land in Nevada County. In the short film by Ruth and Radu, each person reflects on their connection to the land and how it relates to their sense of belonging. Lori Lachman followed the project, taking photographs of the people and of the places that Ruth and Radu traveled throughout the year of the Belonging project. These photographs will be on display during the exhibition.

Ruth Chase lives and works in Nevada County. In 2017, Ruth completed the West of Lincoln Project that was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles for Art in Action. She was also awarded a grant to an individual artist from the Carl Jacobs Foundation. She was granted a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in NY, was published in Professional Artist Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine and Huffington Post, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum, and she was a featured sketch artist on the Dead Files television program. Most recently she was awarded an Artist-in-Residence at Nevada County Arts for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for the BELONGING project. Ruth is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute.

BELONGING EXHIBITION
May 2 – July 30
Summer Thyme
231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA

OPENING RECEPTION
Sunday, May 20 3-5p
INVITATION

FILM SCREENING
Sunday, May 20 2-3p
With filmmaker Radu Sava, Ruth Chase and featured participants of the film: Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan CollierShelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa ParkerAimee RetzlerMike Stewart and Rob Thompson.

ARTISTS EXHIBITING
Masha Lewis, Bill Jacobson, Ashely Foreman, Jude Bischoff, Sherri Dauphinais, Peggy Wright, Desiree Chantel Penland, Amy Mills, Robert Finn, Al Martinez, Anna Snelgrove, Jennifer Rugge, Lisa Barker, Erin Sorani, Linda Leith, Pamela J Bradford (aka Almoustine AE)


 

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LEARN MORE ABOUT BELONGING
Facebook Group for BELONGING
INSTAGRAM

CALL for WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS about BELONGING

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 15, 2018

WHAT
BELONGING Exhibition

Write a letter about “belonging”. The letter will be exhibited in the BELONGING Exhibition. You do not have to be an artist or even a great writer, however, that’s ok too. You may have noticed that I am not the best of writers but I put myself out there anyhow.

The BELONGING project exhibition will begin on May 2, 2018.

Click HERE to learn more about BELONGING.

Eligibility: Nevada County Resident
Entry Deadline: Mail no later than 4/15/2018
Fee: None
Letter Pick Up Date: 8/1/18 4pm @SummerThyme’s
Exhibition: 5/2/2018 – 7/30/2018
Opening Reception: 5/20/2018 2 – 5p
Organization: Nevada County Arts Council
Exhibition Location: Summer Thyme’s, Grass Valley
Contact Email: RuthChaseFineArt @ ymail.com
Contact Phone: 530.409.2330

HOW
Write a letter about belonging. It could be signed with your name or anonymous. Preferably hand written, no need for perfection, your letter will be considered as art to be hung in the exhibition. 

FOR EXAMPLE WRITE ABOUT ONE OF THESE

  • How you have found a sense of belonging in Nevada County?
  • Explain your sense of belonging with nature, the environment or the land in Nevada County?
  • Write about anything related to belonging and ask Ruth if you need more clarity.
  • Consider starting the letter with Dear “something related to your topic, like Dear Land, Dear Self, Dear Nevada County, Dear Community”, be creative or keep it simple.


THEN
Mail it no later than APR 15th to Ruth Chase, P.O. Box 2111, Nevada City, CA
The original copy only, it will be given back to you after the exhibit if you provide contact information.

THE BELONGING EXHIBITION
Your letter will be available for pick up at the end of the exhibition, this is a public event so the letter will be shown publicly.
Facebook Invitation to Belonging Exhibition

 

IMPORTANT DATES
MAY 2 – JULY 30, 2018 BELONGING
Exhibition: Summer Thyme Gallery/GV

MAY 20, 2018 • 2-5 PM
BELONGING Opening Reception: Summer Thyme Gallery/GV

BELONGING is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council led by Artist Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.
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How drugs and growing up on welfare brought me to working with community.

On March 7th I headed to Mi Pueblo in Nevada City to meet Brian Buckley for dinner. Brian is very involved in the community, having been a principal at several schools and on the Board of Directors for many organizations, to name a few, The Friendship Club and Nevada County Arts Council where he served as Executive Director as well. We met to talk about Sages Among Us on KVMR, then head to the studio for a live interview. on the weekly show. Typically I’m terrified of public speaking, so while the opportunity was great, I wasn’t all that excited. At the beginning of the interview I kept saying UM, UM, I was so nervous, but in the end I was able to open up and talk about a few things that I don’t usually speak about publicly. Here is the podcast if you care to listen to it.


 

Three part interview with Brian Buckley on KVMR

Tribute Wall in VENICE

The Venice Tribute Wall provided a space for the public to share their stories, memories, and memorial related to Venice.

From AUG 5 – SEP 10 the West of Lincoln Project was installed at the Venice Arts Gallery. Currently this project is seeking a permanent, semi permanent, or other installation location.

I am continuing to collect stories as part of the Venice Tribute Wall. Submit below and send images to>  RuthChaseFineArt@Ymail.com

*Bronwynn~Rose Saifer 1984~2008

Venice Tribute Wall close up In Memory of

 

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CONTACT RUTH

Immigration from China in 1903 | BELONGING Project

Philip Oyung is a descendant of one of the first Chinese family to immigrate to Nevada County. He attended Union Hill, as did his father back in 1910. His grandfather emigrated from Guangdong province, China in 1905 to be a cook at the Star Mine in Grass Valley.

Photos by Lori Lachman

 

Portion of the interview of Philip Oyung with Ruth Chase 2017
On a warm Saturday in November, I met and interviewed Philip at the Oyung Cabin in Empire Mine State Park. With me were cinematographer Radu Sava and photographer Lori Lachman.  Philip and his six siblings were born and raised in this cabin until the 1970’s when the family moved out. Philip told me that many Chinese immigrants came through their family home as a first stop before moving on to San Francisco. Listen to hear Philip tell you in his own words.

Philip and Ruth NOV 2017

Philip Oyung is part of BELONGING, a community arts initiative led by Nevada County Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

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On Friendship and BELONGING

The BELONGING project is a journey I’m taking with the community of Nevada County. Every week I ask a question on Facebook that explores how we find a sense of belonging. Here is the question I asked most recently.

How do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now?

Growing up I felt an incredible pain from feeling like I didn’t belong in my own home while I dreamed of belonging where I wasn’t wanted, with my dad. My dad and I shared the same looks and big personality, I felt comfortable with him because we were alike. As a child my friendships often reflected these same family dynamics, feeling like an outcast in friendships that I perceived I didn’t belong in because I wasn’t enough. Further making me feel incredibly insecure about if I would ever belonging with anyone, anywhere. I think that is why I cried so much on my wedding day, someone wanted me to “belong” with them. To this day I rarely feel like I fit in with most people so I cherish the relationships where I do feel a sense of belonging. After many years of rejection from the art world I have come to realize that none of it is personal and that I belong to myself first and foremost.

 

So, How do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now? 

 

 

Shelly Covert | BELONING Project

A sample of the interview of Shelly Covert with Ruth Chase, recorded by Radu Sava.

After meeting Shelly I decided to create the BELONGING project; about how people find a sense of belonging through the land. Their answers sit in a strange dichotomy as Tribal members feel a varying “personal” sense of belonging having lived here in their ancient tribal homelands never having been removed. Individuals have family, friends and community connections that help them to BELONG. But, when asked if the Tribe as a whole feels a sense of belonging, the answer was quite different; and how could it be any-other-way after their people were nearly annihilated during the Gold Rush.  The Tribe itself is invisible. The Tribe is “terminated”. The Tribe has no local value that can be seen by the community. This is in contrast to many of their personal feelings of home, community and belonging. The Nisenan are a vital link to our own sense of belonging to the land, like the roots of our community tree; the relationship they have held with the land can teach us how to connect with it ourselves.

To learn more about the Nisenan and Shelly Covert click here.

Arrange a Studio Visit

I invite you to visit my studio anytime. No worries, you don’t have to be an art collector to have a reason to visit either.

Depending on my work schedule I will have something I’m working on that is progress, as well as older work to view. If you have questions about art, mine or in general, bring them with you, I love to talk shop.

I am located just three miles from downtown Nevada City, CA. Feel free to call me or use message form below. Ruth Chase  530-409-2330

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BELONGING Call to Artists DUE APR 7th

LAST DAY TO ENTER APRIL 7, 2018

 

THEME:

BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home. The people who tend it, love it and depend on it. Creating a deeper sense of connection between them, between members of our community and the land we all share.

Eligibility: Nevada County Resident
Entry Deadline: 4/7/2018
Fee: None

Confirmation by Email: 4/16/18
Art Delivery Date: 5/1/18 4pm @SummerThyme’s
Art Pick Up Date: 8/1/18 4pm @SummerThyme’s
Exhibition: 5/2/2018 – 7/30/2018
Opening Reception: 5/20/2018 2 – 4p
Organization: Nevada County Arts Council
Exhibition Location: Summer Thyme’s, Grass Valley

Website: http://www.RuthChase.com/Belonging
Contact Email: RuthChaseFineArt @ ymail.com
Contact Phone: 530.409.2330


My name is Ruth Chase and I’m an artist in residence with the Nevada County Arts Council for BELONGING. We are looking for artists in Nevada County, CA who want to participate in this exhibition and have or want to create work around the above theme. There is limited space and I will contact everyone no later than April 16th, 2018 by email.

More about BELONGING >

Submission form below or send me a message or text me and we can chat.
Cheers,

ruth-chase-boudreaux-signature-2017
Ruth Chase

530.409.2330


Visual Artist APPLY HERE

 

 

 


IDEAS FOR ARTWORK 

  • What does belonging look and feel like ?
  • What does it look and feel like to not belong ?
  • A portrait of how you find a sense of belonging in nature ?
  • A place that holds a special feeling outside and in nature ?
  • How does a sense of purpose relate to belonging ?
  • Does anyone inspire you from the BELONGING featured participants ?
  • How would someone find a sense of belonging on the land ?
  • Another idea is to write a letter about belonging > click here.

Artist Agreement


 

 

 

Images by Lori Lachmam, who is following BELONGING to document its journey. Her work will be exhibited at the BELONGING Exhibition in June.

 

 

 


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